Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers forcibly detained over 500 young men and women from displaced people camps in Shire in Tigray’s northern region on Monday, aid workers and a doctor told Reuters.
Soldiers arrived around 11 pm and loaded people onto trucks, the humanitarians and the doctor said, citing witness accounts. Several men were beaten, phones and money confiscated, one aid worker said.
One man in one of the camps who hid during the incursion, said soldiers broke in and beat men with sticks.
“The soldiers surrounded our camp at night, broke the main gate and started to beat every man using sticks. They hit a 70-year-old and kidnapped a blind one. Only from our camp, Tsehaye elementary school, 400 were taken,” he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Tewodros Aregai, interim head of Shire’s north-western zone, told Reuters he had few details but confirmed “hundreds” were taken.
Eritrea Information Minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, said he saw no reason to “round up IDPs” and described the claims as propaganda by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former political party, which has been fighting the federal government since November.
Thousands were killed since the conflict started, two million forced from their homes and 91% of the population of nearly six million are in need of aid, according to the latest report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
On Tuesday, relatives of those taken protested at the offices of the UN refugee agency, according to footage viewed by Reuters.
Monday’s incident comes two months after a March 26 announcement by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that Eritrean soldiers would leave Tigray after repeated reports of major rights abuses, including looting, gang rapes, and mass killings of civilians.
The Eritreans deny rights abuses. The US repeatedly called for the Eritreans to withdraw.
Shire hosts thousands who fled western Tigray, now administered by the neighbouring Amhara region. Ethnic Tigrayans say they are driven out by Amhara forces.